October 10, 2020: Countdown

On August 16, I said good-bye to my sister and her partner, and began my very slow journey back from Embrun, Ontario to the west coast.

Waiting for the Manitoulin Island ferry, Lake Huron

It took three weeks for me to traverse Ontario, with stops at Kingston, South Baptiste Lake, Cambridge, Southampton, Espanola, Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, and Kenora. From there, the highways became straight and flat, leading quickly through Winnipeg, Inglis, Saskatoon, Viking, Holden, Camrose, New Norway, and Red Deer.

What a change it’s been, after weeks moving from car to room to car to room, driving and working with short breaks to explore, to now have a two-week pause in Calgary, to again be with people I love.

Yet even entering the bosom of familiar territory and family, there is unease. In Camrose, I sometimes noticed a faint haze in the air. As soon as I began driving south, the haze deepened, obscuring the sun. Fifteen kilometres outside Red Deer, it became a bank of smoke — the same bank that was enveloping southern British Columbia and the entire west coast down to California.

Smoky skies above petroleum plant, Alberta prairie

As the smoke has diminished, COVID-19 cases are again rising. My joy in seeing my Auntie Pat and Uncle André, cousin Jan, dear friend Yiely, niece Makayla, brother Dave and sister-in-law Shelly is tempered and infected with caution and concerns. During my stay, events in the U.S. continue to send their reverberations north, feeding our anxieties about the future.

In the midst of such wide-reaching and life-threatening events, how do we remain connected with a sense of agency, with our ability to contribute to the emergence of a more positive future? Although we may not see it in the news or in our social media feeds — which, after all, increase readership by feeding our anxieties — sources of inspiration are out there.

For me, one of these is Countdown, an initiative taken by Chris Anderson, CEO  of TED, and Christiana Figueres, global climate crisis leader and self-described stubborn optimist. They, with many others, recognize that the climate crisis is too urgent, global, and life-threatening to leave in the hands of government. We ALL — particularly those of us in the wealthy, northern hemisphere — need to step up and take action, and we need to do it now.

On October 10, Countdown will bring together world leaders, business leaders, thought leaders, celebrities, artists, and regular folk like you and me in a global online event, the launch of a movement to reclaim the health of our planet, our environment, and ourselves.

October 10 would have been my mother’s 79th birthday. For me, celebrating and remembering her with this commitment to the future of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, to the planet we all love and share, feels particularly meaningful and poignant.

Sunrise outside Espanola, Ontario

This all takes place Saturday, October 10 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time on TED’s YouTube channel (11:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 5:00 to 11:00 p.m. in Europe).

Even simply knowing this is happening re-inspires my commitment and imagination. We truly are all in this together — on so many levels — and there is in each of us so much brilliance, wisdom, creativity, resourcefulness, imagination, and love. What’s one decision I can make, one action I can take — now, today — that would contribute to a healthier, more life-sustaining world?

Countdown: Full program